Designer-label European brands are flooding Australia’s small car market
Large isn’t the same as luxury. Not any more. The latest hatchbacks from Europe bring all the comfort and luxury you desire with speed, agility and economy. We introduce the pick of the prestige pocket rockets.
SMALL cars are cheaper than big cars, right? Well, not necessarily.
While starting prices for tiddlers have fallen below $12,000, we’re also seeing Europe’s hottest motoring trend – the premium-priced small car – arriving in Australian showrooms.
Most EU countries now have engine size/emissions-based tax scales, spanning thousands of Euros in penalties and concessions, to encourage buyers into low-emission, fuel- efficient cars. This carrot and stick approach has seen the small car class in Europe
‘‘ explode sideways’’, says Edward Rowe, spokesman for the local importer of Alfa Romeo and Citroen.
‘‘ People who were once paying premium prices for larger cars are now looking at smaller ones. They want the same levels of luxury, refinement, safety and equipment, plus an identifiable brand image, so new players are entering the market and new trends are emerging.’’
The class is also becoming a technological frontier, with innovative engineering that has reduced fuel consumption and emissions for petrol and diesel engines to amazingly low levels, without compromising performance.
Fiat, for example, has just released in Europe a variant of its cute little 500 with a turbocharged 900cc twocylinder petrol engine, the Twin Air, that produces a respectable (by small car standards) 63kW of power, averages 4.1 litres per 100km, and has the world’s lowest CO emissions for a petrol engine: 92-95g/km.
If you’re going to command big money for a small car, you have to make it desirable; as you can see from the photos, this is very much a designerdriven class, styled to get you noticed on the street.
So if you’re cashed up, environmentally savvy and reckon a big car is a waste of space, here’s a selection of Europe’s best designerlabel drives.
AUDI A1 From $29,900 OK, it’s a Volkswagen Polo underneath, but Audi’s new small car is undeniably cool, and sportier suspension tuning also makes it a more involving, enjoyable drive.
The 90kW 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine is a neat fit with the optional ($2350) seven-speed robobox, averaging 6.5L/100km around town.
Audi, however, wants an extra $1800 for a ‘‘ media package’’ with Bluetooth, which is ludicrous. It is standard fare in the $12,990 Nissan Micra. And you can also buy the more powerful, faster, and better-equipped Polo GTi for $2110 less.
CITROEN DS3 From $32,990 Inside and out, it’s the most distinctive design in small cars.
The DS3 is also luxuriously comfortable . . . in a class that doesn’t generally do smooth or supple.
The D-Style runs an 88kW 1.6-litre petrol engine with a four-speed automatic.
If you want an auto, four speeds are not enough to get useful performance from a small engine. Go straight to
Top-shelf: Model Jessica finds plenty to like about the Citroen DS3
Turning heads: The Audi A1 epitomises the trend towards luxury and refinement in the smallcar class